ON May 31, 2008, watched by more than seven million viewers, Jodie Prenger was crowned the winner of I'd Do Anything, the BBC TV show that searched for an unknown actress to play Nancy in Oliver! in the West End.

It was an extraordinary achievement, attained against all the odds.

And now, as she begins a year-long run in the West End, the Blackpool-born actress and singer has released her autobiography, It's a Fine Life, charting her amazing journey from frumpy young woman to dazzling star of the stage.

As a little girl growing up in Blackpool, Jodie hid behind her wide smile and fun personality, even as the weight piled on.

"I was brought up in the hub of it all because my mum and dad ran a hotel, so I was immersed in the entertainment industry from birth," she said.

"My parents would get me up on the bar to sing for the guests so I guess I was born to be an entertainer. It was in my genes.

"I had a happy childhood. The only unhappiness came from my weight. Every year I got bigger and bigger and I got picked on in school, but luckily I've got such a strong family that they were always there for me to turn to if I'd had a hard day."

As a teenager Jodie dreamt of performing on the West End stage but was always turned down from roles because of her size, so instead she settled for performing in cabaret clubs, where she'd sing songs from the musicals and have fun with the audience too.

At her heaviest, aged 27, Jodie weighed more than 18 stone and was becoming fed-up of her weight holding her back.

And then a TV programme changed her life.

"I started watching the American version of Biggest Loser with my mum and saw these people totally transform their lives," said Jodie, 29.

"I knew straight away that's what I wanted. I was sick of being overweight."

Jodie applied to go on the British version of the show and put her all into it.

"It was hard, hard work," she said. "I was the only girl on the boys' team and I trained like a man. I really pushed myself to the limit."

Her hard work paid off. In six months Jodie had shed eight stone, almost half of her body weight, and had shrunk from a size 22 to a 10. She won the show and became the first female winner in more than 30 countries.

"To become the first female to win the show was amazing," she said.

"I became a qualified nutritional therapist and even had an agony aunt column in Closer magazine."

Many in Jodie's position would have stopped there, but Jodie refused to give up on her dream of singing on the stage.

In January 2008 she auditioned for the BBC reality TV show I'd Do Anything.

"I got called back for audition after audition and all the time I kept hoping I'd continue," said Jodie. "All of a sudden it was down to just a handful of us and I was on the television every week.

"I've got to admit, there were times when I did think 'I've won one reality TV show. Surely I can't win another' but I put that to the back of my mind and just worked as hard as I could.

"The BBC treated us like royalty but there was a lot of pressure because you perform your song every week and you're praying your dream isn't going to be taken away from you. Also you're not only singing in front of the nation, but in front of Andrew Lloyd Webber, John Barrowman, Denise Van Outen and Barry Humphries, people at the top of the business who you never dreamed you'd sing in front of."

After winning the show, Jodie wrote her autobiography, she said, to tell her fans about her amazing journey and to offer them inspiration.

"I wanted to tell people about my life growing up in Blackpool and also to deal with weight issue, because before doing The Biggest Loser I honestly thought my only way out was to have a gastric band operation. I really wanted to tell people that there is another way.

"If you've never had a weight problem it's difficult to understand, but when someone has been there and done it, it's easier to take advice from them. Going on the Biggest Loser for me was all about hard work and having the right mindset. I always say half of it is what you put in your mouth and the other half is what's in your head. You've got to be ready to do it — that's the main thing. I was sick of feeling frumpy and down and having to put a face on all the time pretending to be happy when really I wasn't.

"And of course I wanted to tell everybody all about what goes on behind the scenes of I'd Do Anything and about my amazing experiences."

Now Jodie is focusing on her prize, performing in Oliver! at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, in London's West End, until December.

"The show is amazing," she said.

"The set is fantastic, the music's beautiful, the cast are wonderful. It's an honour to be a part of it.

"Every day I wake up and I pinch myself and thank my lucky stars because I'm doing everything I've always wanted to do.

"My advice for others who want to follow in my footsteps would be you just go for your dream and keep working hard, because your mother's right — hard work does pay off."

l It's A Fine Life, by Jodie Prenger, published by Michael O'Mara is out now priced £14.99. Visit www.jodieprenger.tv to find out more.